Tourism in Bali has started to bounce back. The upcoming G20 summit will bring hopes to disabled artists, as more people are to visit art exhibitions and buy their paintings.
BALI, Indonesia, June 2 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Indonesia's Bali Island has brought fresh air for I Gede Agus Mertayasa, a Balinese disabled painter.
For Agus, the high-level government meeting, scheduled on Nov. 15 to 16 this year, will be the moment to attract more tourists coming to the country's most renowned resort island, and that means more people will visit art exhibitions and buy his paintings and T-shirts.
"We are thankful that Indonesia becomes the host country and Bali is chosen as the central venue. The G20 event will be a turning point for us to recover our family's economy," Agus' mother, Ni Made Rosanti, told Xinhua recently in Denpasar, Bali.
Born deaf and mute, Agus was gifted with excellent painting skills. While sitting all the time in a wheelchair, he managed to paint Balinese art and symbols, which require intricate patterns and special attention to detail.
Before the pandemic, his paintings could be sold at 1.5 million rupiahs (103.2 U.S. dollars) to 3 million rupiahs (206.4 U.S. dollars) per piece. His paintings are also printed into T-shirts, each of which was usually sold at 70,000 rupiahs (4.82 U.S. dollars).
"Both paintings and T-shirts were always sold out at many art exhibitions. But that was before the pandemic," Rosanti said, adding that two years long of COVID-19 pandemic almost totally killed Agus' dreams.
Starting a couple of weeks ago, Agus has returned to exhibitions. Now he is focusing on showcasing and selling his painting and painted T-shirts at the Bali Bangkit Small and Medium Industries (IKM) Exhibition in Denpasar.
Bali Bangkit is one of few art exhibitions set to be visited by the G20 state leaders and their entourages during the two-day G20 Bali Summit, according to Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs.
Bali Bangkit IKM coordinator, Robert, told Xinhua that the exhibition venue had several disabled artists who usually exhibited and sold their artworks, ranging from paintings, weaving bags and souvenirs, and other handicrafts there.
"Before the pandemic, this venue was known as an outdoor mall for tourists. But it shut down during the pandemic. We hope the G20 event can trigger more and more visitors, bringing back Bali as it used to be," Robert said.
Bali is known for its pristine beaches and rich local cultures. Tourism has contributed around 53 percent of its regional revenues. Data from Indonesia's Central Agency of Statistics (BPS) showed that Bali received 6.2 million foreign visitors in 2019.
When the COVID-19 began in 2020, 90 percent of the tourism ecosystem on the island was devastated, and only 10 percent of tours and travel providers could survive. To date, the island has lost about 9.7 trillion rupiahs (667.3 million U.S. dollars), according to Indonesia's Tourism Ministry.
As the number of daily reported COVID-19 cases has steadily decreased, the Indonesian government has started to gradually waive social restriction policies since February, from reopening international borders, cutting quarantine periods, relaxing health protocols, to granting Special Visa-on-Arrival for dozens of countries.
Since then, tourism in Bali has started to bounce back. In March alone, the BPS recorded that the total number of foreign tourists entering Bali reached 14,620, a surge from only 1,310 tourists it welcomed during February.
The Indonesian government has also prepared strategies to facilitate the disabled people in Bali so that they can promote their artworks.
Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno has ordered thousands of handmade tote bags made by a number of disabled craftsmen in Bali as souvenirs to be given to the G20 delegations.
"We have to use this G20 momentum to promote their products. I promise I will introduce their products and artworks to international level," Uno said.